Texas Monthly Talks with Abraham Verghese

Program: Texas Monthly Talks
Time: 7 p.m.
Date: Thursday, April 2
Also airs: Sunday, April 5, at 12:30 p.m.
Watch episodes online at klru.org/texasmonthlytalks

It’s probably too easy to say, and certainly too corny to observe, that Abraham Verghese’s writing is just what the doctor ordered, or that his compelling narratives, both fiction and non, are the cure for what ails the common reader — but there’s no denying that the 54-year-old physician and author is a leading literary light these days, someone whose magazine work, for the likes of The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and, yes, TEXAS MONTHLY, is celebrated and much-anticipated, and whose three books, most recently the novel Cutting for Stone, are widely read and admired. But it’s as much his personal story as his professional resume that has given lift to his career. Born in Ethiopia to parents who were teachers, he first came to America after Emperor Hailie Selassie was deposed and replaced by a military government. He was in the middle of his medical training at the time, and he spent a year here working as a hospital orderly before heading back overseas, to Madras Medical College in India, to complete his studies. Verghese arrived for good in the States in 1980, entering a residency program in Johnson City, Tennessee. After three years he accepted a fellowship at Boston City Hospital, where he first encountered the epidemic of urban AIDS. Returning to Johnson City to teach and practice, he saw early evidence of rural AIDS — and both extreme empathy and a defined focus resulted. Creative stirrings forced him to take time away from patients to enter the Iowa Writers Workshop in the early nineties, but upon earning a master’s degree he came to El Paso as a Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. Eleven years later, he was the founding director of the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics at the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and today, he is in his second year as Professor for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Stanford University’s medical school. But, lucky for us, all the while he’s continued to write. As much of a joy to read as he is a pleasure to talk to, Verghese never fails to surprise and delight with his observations on the state of patient care — and his endless tales from bedside.

— Evan Smith, host of Texas Monthly Talks